The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: which is the least indeed of all; but when it is grown up, it is the greatest of all the herbs. (Mt 13:32)
My dear brethren,
What is the Kingdom of Heaven?
There are three meanings that can be given to the kingdom of heaven:
- The Kingdom of Heaven is the heaven itself; the realm where souls of the just, the angels and the Blessed Virgin Mary adore God for all eternity.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is the Church on Earth consisting not of territorial or material possessions, but of souls ordered to God through Baptism.
- The Kingdom of Heaven is also the interior kingdom within each soul free from original and mortal sin.
It is this third meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven that is likened to a mustard seed in the Gospel today. It is likened to a mustard seed because it has small beginnings and then grows and grows to transform us completely.
Personal Conversion – small beginning required
It is a fact of life that even if we are born and raised in a Catholic family, most of us must undergo a personal conversion. This occurs when we have complete freedom to practice or not practice our faith – often in the face of temptation. At this moment, we are like the child who is let free to walk for the first time. Some have the virtue of faith and fortitude sufficiently formed within them – many have not and battle ensues. Our prayers and acts of virtue are much more difficult to say and do when we are by ourselves (ie. when we are only doing them for God).
If we have the kingdom of heaven within us we must start with small a beginning. So many have embarked upon ambitious plans to obtain sanctity by endless prayers, penances, reading, pilgrimages etc., but after a time have given up on the project because it was too difficult. The reason for this is pride (a lack of humility) or ignorance.
Like the grain of mustard seed we must start with small beginnings. One such small beginning is the devotion of the Three Hail Marys.
Devotion of the Three Hail Marys
The devotion was the subject of revelations made seperately to the Benedictine nuns St. Mechtilde (+1298) and her novice St. Gertrude (+1301). One day Our Lady appeared to St. Mechtilde and assured her: "Dear daughter, I will most certainly grant you the grace that you insistently ask of me, but I request you to say, every day, Three Hail Marys in honour of the power, wisdom and love with which the Holy Trinity deigned to fill my heart. If you do that I promise you final perseverance."
The devotion was specifically recommended by St. Anthony of Padua, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. Leonard of Port Maurice.
- St. Anthony of Padua (1195–1231) was one of the first to practice the devotion and to recommend it. His wish was "to honour the spotless Virginity of Mary and to preserve a perfect purity of mind, heart and body in the midst of the dangers of the world".
- Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787) adopted this pious practice and highly recommended it too. He told parents to train their children to acquire the habit of saying three Hail Marys in the morning and evening. After each Hail Mary, he advised that the following prayer be said: "By thy pure and Immaculate Conception, O Mary, make my body pure and my soul holy."
- Later on, St. Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751) "had the three Ave Marias recited morning and evening in honour of Mary Immaculate, to obtain the grace of avoiding all mortal sins during the day or and night; moreover, he promised in a special manner eternal salvation to all those who proved constantly faithful to this practice."
The devotion was approved by Pope Benedict XV on 20th July 1921. The papal document says "Nothing gives us more joy than helping the Christian people to develop their devotion towards the Virgin Mary, mediatrix of all divine graces .... We raise and constitute into an Arch Confraternity or Primary Society, with all the usual privileges, the Association of The Three Hail Marys, canonically already existing at Blois (on the Loire, in France) in the chapel dedicated to the Most Blessed Immaculate Virgin Mary.
Practice of the Devotion
Recite, morning and evening, three Hail Mary’s in honour of the three great privileges (the Power, Wisdom and Love which the Trinity poured into Mary's heart), with this invocation at the end:
- for the morning: "O my Mother, preserve me from mortal sin during this day,"
- for the evening: "O my Mother, preserve me from mortal sin during this night."
(Indulgences of 200 days granted by Leo XIII, 300 days for the members of the Archconfraternity of the Three Hail Mary’s by Benedict XV, and Apostolic Benediction by Pius X.)
Fruits of the Devotion
This devotion has the power to obtain extraordinary spiritual and material graces. One could hardly dream of giving an adequate number of all the graces granted throughout the centuries.
- extraordinary cures from infirmities;
- miraculous protection in dangers of all kind;
- severe temptations and bad habits overcome;
- and conversions to a better life etc.... especially against the sin of impurity
For those of us who are faithful to the devotion – not just saying it but praying it with mind and heart – the Kingdom, which has such a small beginning (60secs), can grow into a might tree which dominates our lives here below and secures eternal life forever in heaven. May the Blessed Virgin Mary assist us in this devotion towards her and grant us its fruits.